REA to Connect 250 Rural Communities to Solar Power

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Chineme Okafor in Abuja

About 250 rural communities across Nigeria would soon be connected to stable electricity generated from solar based facilities, the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) has disclosed.

The REA which revealed this in a note sent to THISDAY, noted that this would be undertaken under its new initiative – the Nigeria Electrification Project (NEP).
It explained 250 rural communities across Nigeria had been penciled down to benefit from this.
According to the agency, electricity from the solar mini girds would be safe, affordable and constant for homes, businesses, schools, places of worship and health centers of these communities.

It added that it was working with private companies to achieve this.
Within the first phase of the NEP, the REA said 67 communities in the Niger – 13 communities; Cross River – 18 communities; Sokoto – 23 communities; and Ogun – 13 communities would benefit from the project, while others would come afterwards.
On how beneficiary communities were selected, it stated that suitable mini grid sites were selected based on data collected through remote geo-spatial studies, and that selection was made by developing a deep understanding of available data.

From the remote data collected, REA explained that a comprehensive community survey and energy audit was carried out to determine the grid connection statuses of the communities; population density; distance to the nearest grid infrastructure; potential of economic activities in relatively high population areas and presence of farming activities and food processing; climatic conditions relating to ambient temperature and level of solar irradiation; and ability and willingness to pay.
It added that by the end of the data collection, off grid communities with high population density and presence of commercial activities as well as their ability and willingness to pay were selected.

According to the agency, private companies would be selected through a competitive tender process to install the solar mini grids.
It stated that these companies have to be legal entities with the capacity to enter into a contract under the laws of Nigeria.
They must also be eligible to participate in the competitive tender, it added, noting that project developers will be assessed based on their experience and skill, financial capability, Integrity and reputation as well as legal compliance.

The REA noted that the NEP would be funded by the World Bank, with private developers building, operating, and maintaining the solar mini grid in the communities, while the agency would act as the implementing agency of the NEP.

On the expected impacts of the NEP, the REA stated that communities would experience improved livelihood with clean, safe and affordable energy that is off grid and do not have to be subjected to the challenges of Nigeria’s on grid electricity.

“It is intended the communities will be the beneficiaries of the Nigeria Electrification Project and will host the developers that will invest in min -grids. The local government will support the process of facilitation with the state government to deliver on the practicalities to establish the enabling environment. Communities must adopt a level of partnership for the NEP to succeed,” the REA said with regards to communities’ cooperation for the project.

It also said: “The support of the state government is a priority towards community engagement and the ultimate development of the communities.
“The state provides the necessary support and contributes to the strategic direction of implementing the NEP in the communities.
“The state government provides access to the established enablers such as the state working group that already has significant experience in delivering similar projects.”